The Indie rock tour, Gentlemen of the Road featuring established artists and upcoming talents spent two days delighting fans in St. Augustine, FL.
The old-fashioned definition of a “gentleman” often alludes to a lad donning a top hat, perhaps a door-opening sophisticate with a monocle for added pretension, all brought together with winning charm. I don’t know what they do in their personal lives, but it seems that the groups of the “Gentlemen of the Road” stopover on September 13 and 14 don’t live up to those standards – they surpass them.
The elusive “secret stamp” in my souvenir passport remains blank but I view it now with sentiment. Ah, remember Thao and The Get Down Stay Down? Yeah, let’s not. Granted, the band had interesting musical ability via instruments, and their quality was a startling contrast to their folky predecessor, Willy Mason. However, all the acts were introduced by Big Mike, who is in fact grand in both size and attitude, and never missed a chance to flatter the crowd with the classic “You’re the best crowd ever, but really,” spiel.
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros closed the first night, with lead singer Alexander Ebert wearing a wrinkled, dingy white tee shirt that was indicative of either a) an artistic statement about brand conformity and the oppressive implications of clothing on social status or b) a privilege of nonchalance excluded only to indie idols. Most likely, it could be attributed to a combination of these things, while being under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, obvious by his erratic movement, belligerence to Jade Castrinos (his band-mate and former love interest) and occasional incoherent statements. These proved to be a source of disrespect for Ebert, but did not diminish from the band’s collective grandeur, with the premiere of their music video ‘Life Is Hard’, and an overall collage of color, graphics, sound, and soul.
Then followed an opening by Bear’s Den, who proved to be great both artistically and socially, transitioning from a powerful stage performance to chatting with guests at the merchandise stand. Bronchitis, plus the heat – proving unforgivably Floridian – led me to doze under a tree to the bizarre music of Those Darlins, and I awoke later to Half Moon Run. By this time, people were agitated with the venue’s pricy water bottles, so I returned to the field to hear the melodies of Justin Townes Earle. He was a sassy guy: “If you’ve been to my shows, you know I don’t take requests.” Well then, Justin.
The ironically titled pop sensation Fun canceled their performance because lead singer Nate Ruess had lost his voice. But, we did “carry on” and it was “all alright” because John Fogerty flew in with only a day’s notice to fill the 50-minute performance slot.
Fogerty performed alongside his son, as well as in the company of Mumford and Sons and The Vaccines. The three groups performed a cover of The Beatles’ song “Come Together”, connecting the past and present of music.
A crowd surfing koala backpack made it up onto the stage with Edward Sharpe and Mumford, each time with someone’s house keys inside. But, hey, I’d lock myself out to be acknowledged by them, too. Mumford later closed the show, including hits from several albums. Marcus threw around some instruments, cursed a little bit (in an endearing way), and the ensemble made it evident how they strove to such great heights.
As one of the 30,000 festival-goers in St. Augustine last weekend, I must say, it was an experience of a lifetime. No matter who you were – beer drinker, crop-topper, hippie, or hipster – I had a little bit of respect for everyone in that field, because they loved the music be it about peace, love, pride, or triumph. Sure, at times you could feel a stranger’s arm pushing against yours, or hear them mess up the words to a song, but you could also feel an excitement in the crowd, too. Music proved itself to unite humanity, even if only for a few days, and even if only in that patch of St. Augustine.